EP1804223A2 - A travel link identification system - Google Patents

A travel link identification system Download PDF

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Publication number
EP1804223A2
EP1804223A2 EP06026638A EP06026638A EP1804223A2 EP 1804223 A2 EP1804223 A2 EP 1804223A2 EP 06026638 A EP06026638 A EP 06026638A EP 06026638 A EP06026638 A EP 06026638A EP 1804223 A2 EP1804223 A2 EP 1804223A2
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EP
European Patent Office
Prior art keywords
link
links
traveled
vehicle
information
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Granted
Application number
EP06026638A
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German (de)
French (fr)
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EP1804223A3 (en
EP1804223B1 (en
Inventor
Kenji c/o AISIN AW CO. LTD. Nagase
Masami c/o Aisin AW Co. LTD. Kusunose
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Aisin AW Co Ltd
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Aisin AW Co Ltd
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Publication date
Priority to JP2005373388A priority Critical patent/JP2007178126A/en
Application filed by Aisin AW Co Ltd filed Critical Aisin AW Co Ltd
Publication of EP1804223A2 publication Critical patent/EP1804223A2/en
Publication of EP1804223A3 publication Critical patent/EP1804223A3/en
Application granted granted Critical
Publication of EP1804223B1 publication Critical patent/EP1804223B1/en
Application status is Active legal-status Critical
Anticipated expiration legal-status Critical

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    • GPHYSICS
    • G08SIGNALLING
    • G08GTRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS
    • G08G1/00Traffic control systems for road vehicles
    • G08G1/01Detecting movement of traffic to be counted or controlled
    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01CMEASURING DISTANCES, LEVELS OR BEARINGS; SURVEYING; NAVIGATION; GYROSCOPIC INSTRUMENTS; PHOTOGRAMMETRY OR VIDEOGRAMMETRY
    • G01C21/00Navigation; Navigational instruments not provided for in preceding groups G01C1/00-G01C19/00
    • G01C21/26Navigation; Navigational instruments not provided for in preceding groups G01C1/00-G01C19/00 specially adapted for navigation in a road network
    • G01C21/28Navigation; Navigational instruments not provided for in preceding groups G01C1/00-G01C19/00 specially adapted for navigation in a road network with correlation of data from several navigational instruments
    • G01C21/30Map- or contour-matching
    • GPHYSICS
    • G08SIGNALLING
    • G08GTRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS
    • G08G1/00Traffic control systems for road vehicles
    • G08G1/09Arrangements for giving variable traffic instructions
    • G08G1/0962Arrangements for giving variable traffic instructions having an indicator mounted inside the vehicle, e.g. giving voice messages
    • G08G1/0968Systems involving transmission of navigation instructions to the vehicle
    • G08G1/096805Systems involving transmission of navigation instructions to the vehicle where the transmitted instructions are used to compute a route
    • G08G1/096827Systems involving transmission of navigation instructions to the vehicle where the transmitted instructions are used to compute a route where the route is computed onboard
    • GPHYSICS
    • G08SIGNALLING
    • G08GTRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS
    • G08G1/00Traffic control systems for road vehicles
    • G08G1/09Arrangements for giving variable traffic instructions
    • G08G1/0962Arrangements for giving variable traffic instructions having an indicator mounted inside the vehicle, e.g. giving voice messages
    • G08G1/0968Systems involving transmission of navigation instructions to the vehicle
    • G08G1/096833Systems involving transmission of navigation instructions to the vehicle where different aspects are considered when computing the route
    • G08G1/096844Systems involving transmission of navigation instructions to the vehicle where different aspects are considered when computing the route where the complete route is dynamically recomputed based on new data
    • GPHYSICS
    • G08SIGNALLING
    • G08GTRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS
    • G08G1/00Traffic control systems for road vehicles
    • G08G1/09Arrangements for giving variable traffic instructions
    • G08G1/0962Arrangements for giving variable traffic instructions having an indicator mounted inside the vehicle, e.g. giving voice messages
    • G08G1/0968Systems involving transmission of navigation instructions to the vehicle
    • G08G1/096877Systems involving transmission of navigation instructions to the vehicle where the input to the navigation device is provided by a suitable I/O arrangement
    • G08G1/096888Systems involving transmission of navigation instructions to the vehicle where the input to the navigation device is provided by a suitable I/O arrangement where input information is obtained using learning systems, e.g. history databases

Abstract

A traveled link identifying system is capable of identifying a combination of one or more links as a route traveled by a vehicle between two or more links thereby allowing it to correctly identify the route traveled by the vehicle on the basis of acquired information indicating a vehicle position. Two points passed through by an information probing vehicle are detected from position coordinate information included in probed information transmitted from the information probing vehicle. If a combination of links is uniquely identified as a route between links corresponding to the two respective points, the links of this combination are identified as links traveled by the vehicle.

Description

  • The present invention relates to a traveled link identifying system adapted to identify a link traveled by a vehicle on the basis of acquired vehicle position information, and more particularly, to a traveled link identifying system adapted to identify a combination of one or more links as a route traveled by a vehicle between two or more links thereby allowing it to correctly identify the route traveled by the vehicle on the basis of information indicating a vehicle position.
  • Nowadays, many vehicles are equipped with a navigation apparatus which provides route guidance so that a driver can easily reach a destination. A typical navigation apparatus detects a current vehicle position using a GPS receiver, acquires map data corresponding to the current position from a storage medium such as a DVD-ROM or an HDD or via a network, and displays the map on a liquid crystal display monitor. If a user specifies a destination, the navigation apparatus searches for an optimum route from the vehicle position to the specified destination and displays a recommended route on a display screen. When the vehicle is approaching each intersection, voice guidance is provided so that the driver can reach the destination.
  • In the conventional navigation apparatus, when a route is searched for, various costs are defined for links or nodes depending on, for example, road types such as expressways, toll roads, national roads, major local roads, prefectural roads, minor streets, etc., traffic restrictions such as a turn restriction, a one-way restriction, etc., link lengths, road widths, the number of traffic lanes, etc. To search for an optimum route from a current vehicle position to a destination, links described in map data are examined starting from both the current vehicle position and the destination to find an optimum route. When a route found in searching started from the current vehicle position meets somewhere a route found in searching started from the destination, the sum of costs for the route from the current vehicle position and the sum of costs for the route from the destination are added together to determine the total cost. The total cost is calculated for each possible route, and a route having a minimum total cost is employed as a navigation route.
  • A travel time needed to travel each link is one of factors which determine the cost in the route searching. However, the travel time depends not only on the link length and the link type but also other traffic conditions such as congestion, and thus real-time traffic information (in terms of congestion etc.) is needed to predict the travel time. It is known to collect such traffic information using sensors installed on roadsides, as is the case in Vehicle Information and Communication System (VICS). It is also known to collect traffic information from particular vehicles called information probing vehicles running on roads.
  • For example, Japanese Unexamined Patent Application Publication No. 2003-281674 discloses a traffic information processing system adapted to determine point-to-point travel times and determine whether there is traffic congestion, on the basis of times at which information probing vehicles pass through specified two points.
  • However, in the traffic information processing system disclosed in Patent Document 1, because traffic congestion, travel times, and other traffic parameters are determined on the basis of times at which two points are passed through, it is difficult to identify routes traveled by vehicles between points. A certain vehicle may travel along a shortest route between points, while another vehicle may travel along a route which is longer but provides ease of driving the vehicle. In particular, when two points are rather far apart from each other and there are many possible routes between the two points, it is difficult to correctly determine traffic congestion, travel times, and other similar parameters on the basis of passing times.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • In view of the problems in the conventional techniques, it is an object of the present invention to provide a traveled link identifying system capable of correctly identifying a link traveled by a vehicle on the basis of information indicating a vehicle position and correctly determining traffic congestion, a travel time, and/or other traffic parameters depending on the traveled link.
  • According to an aspect of the present invention, to achieve the above object, there is provided a traveled link identifying system (1) including information acquisition means (6) for acquiring position information associated with a current position of a vehicle at predetermined distance intervals or at predetermined time intervals, position-based link detection means (11) for detecting links traveled by the vehicle, on the basis of the position information acquired by the information acquisition means, connection relationship storage means (16) for storing connection relationship for each link, combination checking means (11) for determining, on the basis of the connection relationship stored in the connection relationship storage means, whether it is possible to uniquely identify one combination of links connecting between the links detected by the position-based link detection means, and traveled link identifying means (11) for identifying traveled links such that if the combination checking means determines that it is possible to uniquely identify one combination of links, the identified combination of links is identified as links traveled by the vehicle.
  • According to an aspect of the present invention, there is provided a traveled link identifying system (1) including information acquisition means (6) for acquiring position information associated with a current position of a vehicle at predetermined distance intervals or at predetermined time intervals, map data storage means (16) for storing map data in a plurality of hierarchical levels according to the amount of information of road networks, position-based link detection means (11) for detecting links traveled by the vehicle from map data in a particular level stored in the map data storage means on the basis of the position information acquired by the information acquisition means, connection relationship storage means (16) for storing, for each link, connection relationship in the map data in the plurality of levels, and link checking means (11) for determining, on the basis of the connection relationship stored in the connection relationship storage means, whether a connection link connected to one of the links detected by the position-based link detection means and this one of the links detected by the position-based link detection means belong to a same single link in map data in an upper level in which the amount of information is lower than the amount of information in the particular level, and traveled link identifying means (11) for identifying traveled links such that if the link checking means determines that the connection link and the one of the detected link belong to the same single link in the upper-level map data, this connection link is identified as a link traveled by the vehicle.
  • According to an aspect of the present invention, there is provided a traveled link identifying system (1) including information acquisition means (6) for acquiring position information associated with a current position of a vehicle at predetermined distance intervals or at predetermined time intervals, position-based link detection means (11) for detecting links traveled by the vehicle, on the basis of the position information acquired by the information acquisition means; connection relationship storage means (16) for storing connection relationship for each link, natural link connection checking means (11) for determining, on the basis of connection relationship stored in the connection relationship storage means, whether a connection link connected to one of the links detected by the position-based link detection means and this one of the links detected by the position-based link detection means have a natural link connection relationship with each other, and traveled link identifying means (11) for identifying traveled links such that if the natural link connection checking means detects a connection link having the natural link connection relationship with one of the links detected by the position-based link detection means, this connection link is identified as a link traveled by the vehicle.
  • According to an aspect of the present invention, there is provided a traveled link identifying system (1) including information acquisition means (6) for acquiring position information associated with a current position of a vehicle at predetermined distance intervals or at predetermined time intervals, position-based link detection means (11) for detecting links traveled by the vehicle, on the basis of the position information acquired by the information acquisition means, travel history recording means (18) for recording a travel history of the vehicle, travel history checking means for determining, on the basis of the travel history recorded in the travel history recording means, whether one or more links connecting between the links detected by the position-based link detection means include a link traveled in the past by the vehicle, and traveled link identifying means (11) for identifying traveled links such that if the travel history checking means detects a link traveled in the past by the vehicle, the detected link is identified as a link traveled this time by the vehicle.
  • According to an aspect of the present invention, there is provided a traveled link identifying system (1) including information acquisition means (6) for acquiring position information associated with a current position of the vehicle and time information associated with a current time at predetermined distance intervals or at predetermined time intervals, point detection means (11) for detecting points passed through by the vehicle on the basis of the position information acquired by the information acquisition means, point-to-point travel time calculation means (11) for calculating a travel time needed for the vehicle to travel from one to another of the points detected by the point detection means on the basis of the time information acquired from the vehicle, sequence-of-links travel time calculation means (11) for calculating a travel time needed for the vehicle to travel a sequence of links existing between said one to another of the points detected by the point detection means on the basis of the travel times calculated by the point-to-point travel time calculation means, travel time storage means (17) for storing a statistical travel time for each link, statistical sequence-of-link travel time acquisition means (11) for acquiring the statistical travel time of the sequence of links existing between points detected by the point detection means on the basis of the statistical travel time for each link stored in the travel time storage means, and traveled sequence-of-links identifying means (11) for identifying a sequence of links traveled by the vehicle such that a sequence of links is detected whose travel time acquired by the statistical sequence-of-link travel time acquisition means is closest to the travel time calculated by the sequence-of-links travel time calculation means, and the detected sequence of links is identified as the sequence of links traveled by the vehicle.
  • According to an aspect of the present invention, there is provided a traveled link identifying system (1) further including travel time calculation means (11) for calculating the travel time for the link traveled by the vehicle on the basis of the traveled link identified by the traveled link identifying means (11) and on the basis of the time needed for the vehicle to travel the identified link.
  • According to an aspect of the present invention, there is provided a traveled link identifying system (1) further including travel time calculation means (11) for calculating the travel time for each link included in the sequence of links traveled by the vehicle on the basis of the sequence of traveled links identified by the traveled sequence-of-links identifying means (11) and on the basis of the time calculated by the sequence-of-links travel time calculation means (11).
  • The present invention provides great advantages as described below. That is, in the traveled link identifying system configured in the above-described manner according to the first aspect, when it is determined that it is possible to uniquely identify one combination of one or more links connecting between detected links of interest, the identified combination of links is identified as links traveled by the vehicle. Thus, it is possible to correctly identify links traveled by the vehicle on the basis of acquired information indicating the vehicle position taking into account connection relationships among links, and it is possible to correctly determine traffic congestion, travel times, and other traffic parameters on the basis of the identified links.
  • In the traveled link identifying system configured according to the second aspect, when it is determined that a detected link of interest and a connection link directly connected to the detected link of interest both belong to the same single link defined in an upper level of map data, this connection link is identified as a link traveled by the vehicle. That is, links traveled by the vehicle are correctly identified on the basis of acquired information indicating the vehicle position taking into account link definition in different levels, and it is possible to correctly determine traffic congestion, travel times, and other traffic parameters on the basis of the identified links.
  • In the traveled link identifying system configured according to the third aspect, when it is determined that a connection link-directly connected to the detected link of interest has the natural link connection relationship with the link of interest, this connection link is identified as a link traveled by the vehicle. Thus, it is possible to correctly identify links traveled by the vehicle on the basis of acquired information indicating the vehicle position taking into account the relationship among links, and it is possible to correctly determine traffic congestion, travel times, and other traffic parameters on the basis of the identified links.
  • In the traveled link identifying system configured according to the fourth aspect, when a link traveled in the past by the vehicle is found in links between the detected links of interest, the found link is identified as a link traveled this time by the vehicle. Thus, it is possible to correctly identify links traveled by the vehicle on the basis of acquired information indicating the vehicle position taking into account the travel history, and it is possible to correctly determine traffic congestion, travel times, and other traffic parameters on the basis of the identified links.
  • In the traveled link identifying system configured according to the fifth aspect, of possible sequences of links between detected links of interest, a sequence of links having a statistical sequence-of-links travel time closest to a travel time actually spent this time by the vehicle is identified as a sequence of links traveled by the vehicle. Thus, it is possible to correctly identify links traveled by the vehicle on the basis of acquired information indicating the vehicle position taking into account the link travel time, and it is possible to correctly determine traffic congestion, travel times, and other traffic parameters on the basis of the identified links.
  • In the traveled link identifying system configured according to the sixth aspect, the travel time for the link traveled by the vehicle is calculated on the basis of the link identified as the traveled link and on the basis of the time needed for the vehicle to travel the identified link, and thus it is possible to accurately calculate the travel time for the traveled link on the basis of the information supplied from the vehicle which has actually traveled the link.
  • In the traveled link identifying system configured according to the seventh aspect, the travel time for each link included in the sequence of links traveled by the vehicle is calculated on the basis of the sequence of links identified as traveled links and on the basis of the time calculated by the sequence-of-links travel time calculation means, and thus it is possible to accurately calculate the travel time for each of the traveled links on the basis of the information supplied from the vehicle which has actually traveled the links.
    • Fig. 1 is a schematic diagram of a traveled link identifying system according to an embodiment of the present invention.
    • Fig. 2 is a block diagram showing internal structures of an information probing center and other constituent parts of a traveled link identifying system according to an embodiment of the present invention.
    • Fig. 3 is a block diagram showing an internal structure of a terminal vehicle in a traveled link identifying system according to an embodiment of the present invention.
    • Fig. 4 shows a traveled point table according to an embodiment of the present invention.
    • Fig. 5 shows a format of data stored in a statistical link database according to an embodiment of the present invention.
    • Fig. 6 shows a format of data stored in a travel history database according to an embodiment of the present invention.
    • Fig. 7 is a flow chart of a traveled link identifying program executed in a traveled link identifying system according to an embodiment of the present invention.
    • Fig. 8 is a flow chart of a link complementing program according to an embodiment of the present invention.
    • Fig. 9 is a schematic diagram showing a manner in which a time spent to travel a link is calculated.
    • Fig. 10 is a schematic diagram showing an example in which two points indicated by detected position coordinates are located on the same link.
    • Fig. 11 is a schematic diagram showing an example in which links connected to respective links corresponding to two points indicated by detected position coordinates are directly connected to each other.
    • Fig. 12 is a schematic diagram showing an example in which one combination of one or more links can be uniquely identified as a route between links corresponding to two detected points.
    • Fig. 13 is a schematic diagram showing another example in which one combination of one or more links can be uniquely identified as a route between links corresponding to two detected points.
    • Fig. 14 is a schematic diagram showing an example in which links of interest corresponding to two points detected in step S2 and links directly connected to the respective links of interest belong to the same respective links defined in an upper-level map data.
    • Fig. 15 is a schematic diagram showing an example in which a connection link is in a natural link connection relationship with one of links of interest corresponding to two points represented by detected coordinates, and also showing an example in which a link traveled in the past by an information probing vehicle is detected in links between the two links of interest.
    • Fig. 16 is a schematic diagram showing an example of a traveled link identification process.
    • Fig. 17 is a flow chart showing a traffic information transmission program executed in a traveled link identifying system according to an embodiment of the present invention.
  • The traveled link identifying system according to the present invention is described in further detail below with reference to specific embodiments in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
  • First, a traveled link identifying system 1 according to an embodiment of the invention is described below with reference to Fig. 1 schematically illustrating a typical configuration thereof.
  • As shown in Fig. 1, the traveled link identifying system 1 according to the present embodiment basically includes a plurality of information probing vehicles 2 which run on roads and collect probed information, information probing center 3 adapted to receive and store probed information transmitted from the information probing vehicles 2 and produce traffic information (such as link travel times according to the present embodiment) from the stored probed information, and a terminal vehicle 4 which is a user terminal using traffic information sent from the information probing center 3.
  • The information probing vehicles 2 and the information probing center 3 are capable of communicating with each other via a communication device 5 disposed in each information probing vehicle 2 and a center communication device 6 (information acquisition means) disposed in the information probing center 3. The information probing center 3 and the terminal vehicle 4 are capable of communicating with each other via the center communication device 6 and a terminal communication device 7 disposed in the terminal vehicle 4.
  • The communication device 5 is communication means for transmitting probed information to the information probing center 3 via the communication network 10 (Fig. 2), and the communication device 5 also serves as a beacon receiver for receiving radio wave beacon signals or light beacon signals via radio wave beacon devices or light beacon devices installed along roads. The communication device 5 may be a network device capable of performing communication in a communication system using a communication network such as a LAN, a WAN, an intranet, a mobile telephone network, a telephone network, a public communication network, a private communication network, or the Internet.
  • The probed information acquired by each information probing vehicle 2 and transmitted via the communication device 5 may include, for example, a current vehicle position, a destination set in the navigation apparatus, a shift lever position, a steering angle, an accelerator pedal position, a brake pressure, a remaining engine oil quantity, a remaining fuel quantity, a seat belt wearing status, a vehicle speed, a vehicle running direction, a vehicle travel distance, a windshield wiper operation status, a turn signal status, and a current time. In addition to the information associated with the vehicle, the probed information may include further information acquirable by the vehicle, such as information associated with an environment of the vehicle. More specifically, for example, the probed information may further include an image taken by a camera installed on the front end or the back end of the vehicle, the distance to another vehicle running ahead detected using millimeter wave radar, the speed of the vehicle running ahead, etc.
  • The center communication device 6 is communication means for receiving the probed information from the information probing vehicle 2 via the communication network 10 (Fig. 2) and transmitting traffic information produced from the collected probed information to the terminal vehicle 4.
  • The terminal communication device 7 is communication means for receiving traffic information transmitted from the information probing center 3 to the terminal vehicle 4 via the communication network 10 (Fig. 2).
  • Although in the present embodiment, it is assumed that the information probing vehicles 2 are different in vehicle type from the terminal vehicle 4, the terminal vehicle 4 may be used as an information probing vehicle 2, and conversely the information probing vehicle 2 may be used as a terminal vehicle 4. Instead of the terminal vehicle 4, an information terminal such as a portable telephone, a PDA device, or a personal computer may be used.
  • A specific configuration of the traveled link identifying system 1 according to an embodiment is described below with reference to Figs. 2 and 3. Fig. 2 is a block diagram showing a configuration of the traveled link identifying system 1 according to the present embodiment of the invention. In this figure, the configuration is described in detail, in particular, for the information probing center 3. Fig. 3 is a block diagram showing the detailed configuration of the terminal vehicle 4 in the traveled link identifying system 1.
  • As shown in Fig. 2, the traveled link identifying system 1 includes the information probing vehicle 2, the information probing center 3, the terminal vehicle 4, and the communication network 10. The information probing vehicle 2, the information probing center 3, and the terminal vehicle 4 are capable of sending/receiving various kinds of information among them via the communication network 10.
  • A GPS 8 is installed in each information probing vehicle 2. The probed information in terms of the current vehicle position, the current time, etc, is acquired via the GPS 8 and transmitted to the information probing center 3 at predetermine time intervals (for example, every minute). A navigation apparatus including a GPS 8 and a communication device 5 may be installed in each information probing vehicle 2.
  • The information probing center 3 includes the center communication device 6, a server (position-based link detection means, combination checking means, traveled link identifying means, link checking means, natural link connection checking means, travel history checking means, point detection means, point-to-point travel time calculation means, sequence-of-links travel time calculation means, statistical sequence-of-links travel time calculation means, sequence-of-links identifying means, travel time calculation means) 11, a probed information database 15 serving as an information recording unit connected to the server 11, a center map information database (connection relationship storage means and map data storage means) 16, a statistical link database (travel time storage means) 17, and a travel history database (travel history storage means) 18. The server 11 includes a CPU 12 serving as a processing device and a control device for controlling the server 11, and internal storage devices such as a RAM 13 and a ROM 14. The RAM 13 is used by the CPU 12 as a working memory in various calculations. In the ROM 14, a traveled link identifying program (Figs. 7 and 8) and other various control programs to control the server 11 are stored. The traveled link identifying program is a program to identify links traveled by the information probing vehicle on the basis of position information indicating positions of the information probing vehicle 2 at predetermined time intervals included in the probed information stored in the probed information database 15 and to calculate the travel time of each of links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2. An example of the control programs is a traffic information transmission program to transmit traffic information in response to a request from the terminal vehicle 4. An MPU or the like may be used instead of the CPU 12.
  • The probed information database 15 is storage means for storing received probed information which is transmitted from respective information probing vehicles 2 at predetermined time intervals (for example, every minute) via the communication network 10. In the present embodiment, a hard disk is used as a storage medium on which the probed information database 15 is stored. Alternatively, a memory card, a magnetic tape, a magnetic drum, a CD, an MD, a DVD, an optical disk, an MO, an IC card, or optical card may be used as the external storage device.
  • In the present embodiment, in the probed information database 15 of the information probing center 3, there is stored traveled point table 19 as one of various kinds of probed information. In the traveled point table 19, position coordinates indicating the locations, at specified times, of the respective information probing vehicles 2 running over the entire nation are recorded. Fig. 4 shows an example of the traveled point table 19 according to the present embodiment.
  • In the traveled point table 19, as shown in Fig. 4, identification codes ID identifying respective information probing vehicles 2 and coordinates indicating the locations of the respective information probing vehicles 2 at respective specified times are recorded. That is, in the traveled link identifying system 1 according to the present embodiment, each information probing vehicle 2 detects the current time using the GPS 8 installed in the information probing vehicle 2, detects the vehicle position using the GPS 8 every minute, and transmits the detected vehicle position together with the current time as the probed information to the information probing center 3.
  • Thus, the server 11 is capable of identifying a route traveled in the past and a route being currently traveled by each information probing vehicle 2 on the basis of the traveled point table 19.
  • The center map information database 16 is storage means for storing map data necessary to identify links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2. The map data includes map display data according to which to display a map, intersection data associated with intersections, link data associated with links (roads), node data associated with nodes, and facility data associated with facilities.
  • In the present embodiment, the map data is described in three hierarchical levels depending on the amount of information associated with road networks. More specifically, for example, the map data is described in the form of a mesh with a size of 10 km square in the case of the first level, 20 km square in the second level, and 40 km square in the third level.
  • The map data in a lower level has a greater amount of information on road networks than the map data in a higher level. For example, in the third level, the map level includes information associated with national expressways, freeways, urban expressways, and toll roads. In the second level, the map data includes information associated with major roads such as national roads and prefectural roads in addition to the road networks described in the third level. In the first level, in addition to the information described in the second level, the map data also includes detailed information associated with all roads including minor streets.
  • In lower levels, the map data has smaller mesh sizes and includes more detailed information. However, the map data in lower levels does not cover a large area. In contrast, in higher levels, the map data covers larger areas, although the map data includes only rough information. For example, in the lowest level (first level), the mesh size is selected to be small enough to describe all roads including minor streets. However, the mesh covers a small area such as a city, town, or a village. On the other hand, in the highest level (third level), the mesh size is selected to be large enough to cover the entire nation. However, the map data includes only information associated with major roads such as expressways and toll roads.
  • In each level, the map data also includes map display data representing a geometrical shape of a map to be displayed.
  • The link data included in the map data in each level includes data indicating properties of each link in terms of the road width, the slope, the cant, the bank, the road surface condition, the number of lanes, a zone with a smaller number of lanes, a zone with a smaller road width, and a crossing with a railway, data associated with corners or curves in terms of the curvature radius, the corner type such as intersections or T junctions, locations of entrances or exits of corners, data indicating road properties such as downhill roads or uphill roads, data indicating road types such as general roads such as national roads, prefectural roads, and minor streets, or toll roads such as national expressways, motorways, urban expressways, and general toll roads, and special toll roads such as toll bridges. For toll roads, the link data includes data indicating rampways at entrances or exits, locations of toll gates (interchanges), etc. The link data also includes data indicating travel times needed to travel respective links. The link data also include a link connection relationship list and a natural link connection list. In the link connection relationship list, the link number assigned to each of one or more connection links connected to each link is described to represent the connection property of each link. In the natural link connection list, there is described data indicating whether connection links connected to each link of interest have the natural link connection relationship with the link of interest. Note that the natural link connection relationship refers to a special link-to-link relationship between one link and another link with a property which is substantially the same as or very similar to that of the former link. More specifically, for example, two links are determined to have the natural link connection relationship when (1) both links are located on a single straight line, (2) both links are similar in pavement, (3) both links are the same in slope type (a downhill slope or an uphill slope), (4) both links are similar in road width, (5) both links has a similar center line, (6) both links are connected at a smallest angle among all link connections, or (7) there is no STOP sing between two links.
  • In each level of the map data, the node data includes data indicating branchpoints (or intersections or T junctions) of roads, data indicating coordinates (locations) of nodes defined on roads at predetermined distance intervals depending on the curvature radius or other parameters, data indicating node property indicating whether nodes are defined at intersections, a connection link number list indicating link numbers of links connected to each node, an adjacent node number list indicating node numbers of nodes adjacent to each node, and data indicating the height (altitude) of each node.
  • The facility data includes data associated with buildings such as hotels, hospitals, service stations, parking lots, sightseeing facilities, interchanges, restaurants, and service areas, together with facility IDs identifying respective buildings.
  • The statistical link database 17 is storage means for storing times needed in the past for the information probing vehicle 2 to travel respective links described in the map data in the center map information database 16. Fig. 5 shows a format of data stored in the statistical link database 17 according to an embodiment of the present invention.
  • In the statistical link database 17, as shown in Fig. 5, a link number identifying each link, a date/time when each link is traveled by an information probing vehicle 2, and a time needed to travel each link are described. The server 11 identifies a link traveled by an information probing vehicle 2 on the basis of the average value of times needed to travel links stored in the statistical link database 17, and produces traffic information (indicating travel times in the present example) (step S4 in Fig. 7).
  • The travel history database 18 is storage means for storing a travel history of each information probing vehicle 2. Fig. 6 shows a format of data stored in a travel history database 18 according to an embodiment of the present invention.
  • In the travel history database 18, as shown in Fig. 6, an ID identifying each information probing vehicle 2, links traveled in the past by each information probing vehicle 2, and times at which traveling of respective links was started are described. On the basis of data indicating which links were traveled in the past by the respective information probing vehicles 2, the server 11 identifies links traveled next time by the respective information probing vehicles 2, and produces traffic information (indicating travel times in the present example) (step S4 in Fig. 7).
  • Now, referring to Fig. 3, the configuration of the terminal vehicle 4 in the traveled link identifying system 1 is described below. In the present embodiment, the terminal vehicle 4 includes a navigation apparatus 20 having a terminal communication device 7.
  • As shown in Fig. 3, the navigation apparatus 20 includes a current position detecting unit 21 for detecting a current vehicle position, a data storage unit 22 in which various kinds of data are stored, a navigation ECU 23 for performing various kinds of calculations or control operations in accordance with input information, an operation unit 24 used by a user to input a command or data, a liquid crystal display 25 for displaying information such as a map, a speaker 26 for outputting voice guidance associated with a route, and a terminal communication device 7 for communicating with the information probing center 3 or other traffic information centers. The navigation ECU 23 is connected to a vehicle speed sensor 30 for detecting the running speed of the vehicle.
  • Each component of the navigation apparatus 20 is explained in further detail below.
  • The current position detecting unit 21 includes a GPS 31, a geomagnetic sensor 32, a distance sensor 33, a steering sensor 34, a gyroscopic sensor 35 serving as a direction detector, and an altimeter (not shown), whereby the current position and direction of the vehicle and the distance to a target (such as an intersection) are detected.
  • More specifically, the GPS 31 receives radio waves transmitted from artificial satellites and detects the current global position of the vehicle from the received radio waves. The geomagnetic sensor 32 measures geomagnetism to detect the direction of the vehicle. The distance sensor 33 detects the distance between particular points on a road. As for the distance sensor 33, a sensor adapted to measure the rotation speed of wheels of the vehicle and detect the distance based on the measured rotation speed, or a sensor adapted to measure the acceleration and integrate the measured acceleration twice thereby detecting the distance may be used.
  • The steering sensor 34 detects a rudder angle of the vehicle. As for the steering sensor 34, for example, an optical rotation sensor or a resistive rotation sensor attached to a rotating part of a steering wheel (not shown) or an angle sensor attached to a wheel may be used.
  • The gyroscopic sensor 35 detects the angle of traverse of the vehicle. As for the gyroscopic sensor 35, for example, a gas-rate gyroscope or a vibrating gyroscope may be used. By integrating the angle of traverse detected by the gyroscopic sensor 35, it is possible to detect the direction of the vehicle.
  • The data storage unit 22 includes a hard disk (not shown) serving as an external storage device and a storage medium, a program store on the hard disk, and a recording head (not shown) serving as a device for reading map information database 28 or the like from the hard disk and writing data on the hard disk. Although in the present embodiment, the hard disk is used as the external storage device and the storage medium of the data storage unit 22, another type of magnetic disk such as a flexible disk may be used as the external storage device. Alternatively, a memory card, a magnetic tape, a magnetic drum, a CD, an MD, a DVD, an optical disk, an MO, an IC card, or optical card may be used as the external storage device.
  • In the map information database 28, map data necessary in providing route guidance and displaying a map is stored. In the present embodiment, the map data is described in three hierarchical levels depending on the amount of information associated with road networks. The map data in each level includes map display data according to which to display a map, intersection data associated with intersections, link data associated with links (roads), node data associated with nodes, route search data used in route searching, facility data associated with facilities, and point search data used in point searching.
  • The route search data is data used to search for a route to a specified destination defined in respective levels of map data, and the route search data includes cost data including data indicating cost needed to pass through each node (hereinafter referred to as node cost) and data indicating cost of each link (hereinafter referred to as link cost) thereby to calculate search cost, travel time data indicating times needed to pass through each link, and route display data to display a route selected in the route searching process on a map on the liquid crystal display 25.
  • The node cost is basically defined for a node corresponding to each intersection. In the navigation apparatus 20 according to the present embodiment, the node cost is determined depending on whether there is a traffic signal at an intersection and depending on the running direction at the intersection (more specifically, depending on whether a driving route goes straight or turns to right or left at the intersection).
  • The link cost is determined depending on the road attribute or the road type of each links, such as the road width, the number of lanes, the link length, the travel time, and the congestion. Furthermore, in the traveled link identifying system 1 according to the present embodiment, the link travel times and the link costs are modified depending on traffic conditions indicated by the traffic information transmitted from the information probing center 3 (step S105 in Fig. 17).
  • In addition to the route search data, the map data also includes other data such as intersection data, link data, node data etc., as described above. However, these data are similar to those stored in the center map information database 16 (Fig. 2) in the information probing center 3, and thus a duplicated explanation thereof is omitted herein.
  • When the distance from the current position (stating position) to the destination is small (for example, about 3 km), the navigation ECU 23 searches for a route using only a mesh of map data in the first level, that is, the lowest level, in a small area including the current position.
  • In a case in which the distance from the current position to the destination is in a middle range (for example, about 50 km), route searching is performed using a mesh of map data in the first level, that is, the lowest level, for an area close to the current position and an area close to the destination, and using a mesh of map data in a second level, that is, a middle level, for areas other than the areas close to the current position or the destination.
  • In a case in which the distance from the current position to the destination is in a long range (for example, about 300 km), route searching is performed such that a mesh in the first level, that is, the lowest level, is used for an area close to the current position and an area close to the destination, a mesh in the second level, that is, the middle level, is used for areas adjacent to the respective areas in the first level, a mesh in the third level, that is, the highest level, is used for areas adjacent to the respective areas in the second level. This allows it to reduce the amount of calculation needed in the route searching process, and thus a reduction in the route searching time is achieved.
  • In the route searching process performed by the navigation ECU 23, the road data included in the route search data of the map data is examined to calculate the search cost (including node costs and link costs) of roads in the mesh used in the route searching process, and a route is selected depending on the total search cost. More specifically, links described in the road data are examined starting from both the starting position and the destination to find an optimum route. When a route found in searching started from the current vehicle position meets somewhere a route found in searching started from the destination, the sum of costs for the route from the current vehicle position and the sum of costs for the route from the destination are added together to determine the total cost. The total cost is calculated for each of a plurality of possible routes, and a particular number of (three, for example) routes with the lowest total cost, the second lowest total cost, and the third lowest total cost are selected as candidates. A route with the lowest total cost is automatically selected, or a route is selected by a user from the candidates.
  • The content of the map information database 28 may be updated by transferring information from a storage medium such as a DVD or a memory card or by downloading information from a particular information center or the like via the terminal communication device 7.
  • The navigation ECU 23 includes a CPU 41 serving as a calculation/control unit responsible for control over the whole navigation apparatus 20, a RAM 42 used by the CPU 41 as a working memory in various calculations and also used to store route data detected in the route searching process, a ROM 43 for storing various control programs and a traffic information transmission program (Fig. 11) to receive traffic information from the information probing center 3 and search for an optimum route to a specified destination, and an internal storage device such as a flash memory 44 used to store a program read from the ROM 43. As for the RAM 42, the ROM 43, and the flash memory 44, a semiconductor memory or a magnetic core may be used. As for the calculation/control unit, an MPU may be used instead of the CPU 41.
  • Although in the present embodiment, various programs are stored in the ROM 43 and various data are stored in the data storage unit 22, programs and data may be stored in a single external storage device or a memory card and the program or data may be loaded into the flash memory 44 from the external storage device or the memory card. This allows the programs and/or data to be updated by replacing the external storage device or the memory card.
  • The navigation ECU 23 is electrically connected to the operation unit 24 the liquid crystal display 25, the speaker 26, and peripheral devices (actuators) of the terminal communication device 7.
  • The operation unit 24 includes various keys and buttons serving as operation switches (not shown) used to input a start point from which route guidance is started and a destination at which the route guidance is ended. In accordance with switch signals generated when switches described above are pressed, the navigation ECU 23 controls various operations. As for the operation unit 24, a keyboard, a mouse, a barcode reader, a remote control, a joystick, a light pen, a stylus pen, etc. may also be used. A touch panel disposed on the front surface of the liquid crystal display 25 may also be used as the operation unit 34.
  • The liquid crystal display 25 is used to display a wide variety of information such as operation guidance information, an operation menu, key guidance information, a navigation route from the current position to the destination, guidance information along the navigation route, traffic information, news, weather forecast information, time information, mail, and a television program. Instead of the liquid crystal display 25, a CRT display, a plasma display, or a hologram display adapted to project a hologram image on a windshield of the vehicle may be used.
  • The speaker 26 is used to output voice guidance information about the navigation route under the control of the navigation ECU 23. Specific examples of voice guidance information are "Turn to the right at an intersection 300 m ahead" and "There is traffic congestion on National Road OO the vehicle is approaching". The voice guidance information may be output from the speaker 26 by using voice synthesis or by reading voice data recorded in advance on a tape, a memory, or the like. Various kinds of sounds may also be output by means of synthesis or recording.
  • The terminal communication device 7 is adapted to receive not only traffic information transmitted from information probing center 3 but also traffic information such as congestion information, traffic restriction information, parking area information, traffic accident information, etc. from a traffic information center such as VICS (Vehicle Information and Communication System (registered trademark)) center. The terminal communication device 7 for the above purpose may be a beacon receiver adapted to receive radio wave beacon signals or light beacon signals via radio wave beacon devices or light beacon devices installed along roads. The terminal communication device 7 may be a network device capable of performing communication in a communication system using a communication network such as a LAN, a WAN, an intranet, a mobile telephone network, a telephone network, a public communication network, a private communication network, or the Internet. In order to receive the above-described information from the information center, the terminal communication device 7 also includes an FM receiver for receiving FM multiplex information such as news or weather forecast information from an FM broadcast station. The beacon receiver and the FM receiver may be disposed integrally in a single unit as a VICS receiver or may be disposed separately.
  • Now, the traveled link identifying program executed by the server 11 in the information probing center 3 in the traveled link identifying system 1 according to an embodiment of the present invention is described below with reference to Fig. 7 showing in the form of a flow chart the traffic information transmission program. The traveled link identifying program is a program to identify links traveled by an information probing vehicle on the basis of position information indicating positions passed through in the past by the information probing vehicle at predetermined time intervals described in data included in the probed information stored in the probed information database 15, and determine travel times of respective links. Note that the program shown in the flow chart of Figs. 7 and 8 is stored in the ROM 14 or the RAM 13 in the server 11, and is executed by the CPU 12 at predetermined time intervals (for example, every 4 msec) after ignition is turned on.
  • In the traveled link identifying program, first in step S1, the CPU 12 receives via center communication device 6 probed information transmitted from information probing vehicles 2 at predetermined time intervals (for example, every minute) and stores the received information in the probed information database 15. The probed information acquired herein may include information associated with a current vehicle position, a destination set in the navigation apparatus, a shift lever position, a steering angle, an accelerator pedal position, a brake pressure, a remaining engine oil quantity, a remaining fuel quantity, a seat belt wearing status, a vehicle speed, a vehicle running direction, a vehicle travel distance, a windshield wiper operation status, a turn signal status, and a current time.
  • In step S2, from the probed information acquired in step S1, position coordinates transmitted in the latest two transmission operations from the information probing vehicle 2 are acquired, two points indicated by these coordinates on the map are detected. Furthermore, links corresponding to the two respective points are detected (that is, links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2) are detected from the link data described in the center map information database 16. Note that in this step S2, of various levels of the map data stored in the center map information database 16, the map data in the first level having the greatest amount of information associated with road networks is used to detect links. This process in step S2 corresponds to the process performed by the position-based link detection means.
  • Next, in step S3, a link complementing process is performed. In this process, of various links existing on possible routes between the links of interest detected in step S2, links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 are identified, and the detected links of interest are complemented by the identified links (Fig. 8). In this link complementing process, as will be described later, the links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 are identified on the basis of the connection relationship between the detected links of interest and other links, the travel history of the information probing vehicle 2, and/or the link travel times recorded in the statistical link database 17.
  • Thereafter, in step S4, the travel times for the respective traveled links are calculated on the basis of the traveled links identified in step S3 and times at which the information probing vehicle 2 passed through the two respective points indicated by the coordinates detected in step S2. The calculated travel times for the respective traveled links are stored in the center map information database 16 so that the travel times can be transmitted as traffic information in response to a request from the terminal vehicle 4 (step S113 in Fig. 17). Note that the process in step S4 corresponds to the process performed by the travel time calculation means.
  • Fig. 9 is a diagram showing a process performed in step S4 to calculate a travel time for a traveled link.
  • In the example shown in Fig. 9, the following assumption is made. That is, coordinates A and B indicating points passed through by the information probing vehicle 2 are acquired in step S1. Thereafter, in step S2, a link 51 is detected as a link corresponding to the coordinates A, and a link 52 is detected as a link corresponding to the coordinates B. Furthermore, in step S3, a link 53 and a link 54 are identified as links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 between the link 51 and the link 52.
  • In this example shown in Fig. 9, the information probing vehicle 2 passed through the point indicated by the coordinates A at time 9: 10, and the point indicated by the coordinates B at time 9: 11. Thus, it took 1 minute for the information probing vehicle 2 to travel from the coordinates A to the coordinates B. Therefore, the travel time for the link 53 and the travel time for the link 54 can be calculated using ratios among the distance a from the coordinates A to a node 55, the length b of the link 53, the length c of the link 54, and the distance d from a node 56 to the coordinates B. Furthermore, the travel time for the link 51 can be calculated using the ratio of the length of the link 51 to the distance a, and the travel time for the link 52 can be calculated using the ratio of the length of the link 52 to the distance d.
  • The link complementing process performed by the CPU 12 of the server 11 in step S3 is explained in further detail below with reference to Fig. 8, which describes in the form of a flow chart a link complementing program according to an embodiment of the present invention.
  • First, in step 11, the CPU 12 determines whether two points indicated by coordinates detected in step S2 are located on the same link. Fig. 10 shows an example in which two points indicated by coordinates detected in step S2 are located on the same link. In this example shown in Fig. 10, position coordinates C and D of the information probing vehicle 2 are acquired in step S1, and a link 61 is detected in step S2 for both position coordinates C and D. In this case, only the link 61 is identified as a link traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 between the coordinates C and the coordinates D.
  • Thus, in the example shown in Fig. 10, it is determined in step S11 that two points indicated by coordinates detected in step S2 are both located on the same link (that is, the answer to step S11 is Yes), and this link (the link 61 in the example shown in Fig. 10) is identified as the link traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 (step S17). Thereafter, the process proceeds to step S4 to calculate the travel time for the link 61.
  • On the other hand, in a case in which it is determined that two points of coordinates are not located on the same link (that is, if the answer to step S11 is No), the CPU 12 determines whether two links, on which the respective points of coordinates detected in step S2 are located, are directly connected to each other (step S12). The determination as to whether they are directly connected to each other is made using link data included in map data in the first level of the center map information database 16 and the link connection relationship list indicating relationship among the links in terms of connection. Fig. 11 is a schematic diagram showing an example in which links corresponding to two points of coordinates detected in step S2 are directly connected to each other. In the example shown in Fig. 11, coordinates E and coordinates F are detected as position coordinates of the information probing vehicle 2 are detected in step S1, and links 62 and 63 directly connected to each other at a node 64 are detected in step S2 as links corresponding to the respective coordinates E and F. Thus, in this example, links 62 and 63 are uniquely identified as links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 between coordinates E and F.
  • Thus, in this example shown in Fig. 11, it is determined that links corresponding to two points of coordinates are directly connected to each other (that is, the answer to step S12 is Yes), and these two links (links 62 and 63 in the example shown in Fig. 11) are identified as links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 (step S17). Thereafter, the process proceeds to step S4, in which travel times for the respective links 62 and 63 are calculated.
  • On the other hand, in a case in which it is determined that links corresponding to two points of coordinates are not directly connected to each other (that is, if the answer to step S12 is No), the CPU 12 determines whether it is possible to uniquely identify one combination of one or more links connecting between the links corresponding to the two points of coordinates detected in step S2 (step S13). The determination as to whether it is possible to uniquely identify one combination of links is made using link data included in map data in the first level of the center map information database 16 and the link connection relationship list indicating relationship among the links in terms of connection. Figs. 12 and 13 are schematic diagrams showing examples in which it is possible to uniquely identify one combination of one or more links connecting between the links corresponding to the two points of coordinates detected in step S2.
  • In the example shown in Fig. 12, coordinates G and coordinates H are detected as position coordinates of the information probing vehicle 2 are detected in step S1, and links 65 and 66 are detected in step S2 as links corresponding to the respective coordinates G and H. Thereafter, a set of one or more links connected to the link 65 and a set of one or more links connected to the link 66 are checked to find a link included in common in both sets.
  • In this specific example, a link 69 is found as a common link which is connected to the link 65 via a node 67 and also connected to the link 66 via a node 68. In this case, the links 65 and 66 are connected to each other via only one link 69, and links 65, 69, and 66 are identified as links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 between the coordinates G and the coordinates H.
  • On the other hand, in the example shown in Fig. 13, coordinates I and coordinates J are detected as position coordinates of the information probing vehicle 2 are detected in step S1, and links 70 and 71 are detected in step S2 as links corresponding to the respective coordinates I and J. Thereafter, set of one or more links connected to the link 70 and a set of one or more links connected to the link 71 are checked to find a link included in common in both sets. However, in this specific example, no common link included in both sets is found, and thus it is checked whether the former set includes a link connected to a link in the latter set. Herein, if there is only one combination of links connected to each other, it is determined that one combination of one or more links via which the links 70 and 71 are connected to each other can be uniquely identified. In the specific example shown in Fig. 13, a combination of links 72 and 73 connected to each other at a node 74 is only one possible combination of links, and thus links 70, 72, 73, and 71 are identified as links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 between the coordinates I and the coordinates J. Note that in a case in which there are two or more links between the two sets of links, the above-described process is performed repeatedly.
  • In the case in which it is determined that it is possible to uniquely identify a combination of one or more links connecting between the links of interest corresponding to the two respective coordinate points as in the example shown in Fig. 12 or 13 (that is, if the answer to step S13 is Yes), the combination of links (links 65, 66, and 69 in the example shown in Fig. 12) is identified as links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2, and the detected links of interest are complemented by the links identified as the traveled links (step S18). Thereafter, the processing flow proceeds to a determination process in step S22, which will be described later. Note that the process in step S13 corresponds to the process performed by the combination checking means.
  • On the other hand, in the case in which it is determined that it is impossible to uniquely identify one combination of one or more links connecting between the links of interest corresponding to two respective coordinate points (that is, if the answer to step S13 is No), the CPU 12 determines whether the links of interest corresponding to the two respective coordinate points detected in step S2 and the links directly connected to the links of interest belong to same respective links in the map data in the upper level (step S14). The determination, as to whether the links of interest and the links directly connected to the respective links of interest belong to the same respective links in the upper-level map data, is made on the basis of the link data of the map data in the first to third levels described in the center map information database 16, and the link connection relationship list indicating the connection relationships among links. Fig. 14 shows a specific example in which links of interest corresponding to two points detected in step S2 and links directly connected to the respective links of interest belong to the same respective links in the upper-level map data.
  • In the example shown in Fig. 14, coordinates K and L are acquired in step S1 as position coordinates indicating two points passed through by the information probing vehicle 2, and, in step S2, a link 75 is detected as a link corresponding to the coordinates K and a link 76 is detected as a link corresponding to the coordinates L. In this specific example, in map data in the first level, there are two possible routes between the links 75 and 76, that is, one is a route provided by a combination of links 77 and 78, and the other one of which is a route provided by a combination of links 79, 80, and 81, and thus it is impossible to uniquely identify traveled links.
  • However, the links 77 and 75, which are different links in the first level are both included in the same single link 82 in the map data in the second level, and the links 78 and 76 in the first level are both included in the same single link 83 in the second level. Thus, in this case, the links 77 and 78 are identified as links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 between the coordinates K and L in addition to the links 75 and 76.
  • In the case in which it is determined that the links of interest corresponding to the two respective points and the links directly connected to the respective links of interest belong to the same respective links in the upper-level map data as is the case in the example shown in Fig. 14 (that is, if the answer to step S14 is Yes), combinations of links determined as belonging to the same respective links in the higher level (the combination of links 75 and 77 and the combination of links 76 and 78 in the example shown in Fig. 14) are identified as links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2, and the detected links of interest are complemented by the links identified as the traveled links (step S18). Thereafter, the processing flow proceeds to a determination process in step S21, which will be described later. In the example shown in Fig. 14, the link 77 and the link 78 incorporated as complementary links are directly connected to each other (that is, the answer to step S12 is Yes), and thus in step S17, the combination of links 75, 77, 78, and 76 is uniquely identified as a route traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 between the coordinates K and L. Thus, the link completing process is successfully completed. Note that the process in step S14 corresponds to the process performed by the link checking means.
  • On the other hand, in the case in which it is determined that no link belonging to the same single link in the upper-level map data is detected for either one of the links corresponding to the two respective coordinate points (that is, if the answer to step S14 is No), the CPU 12 determines whether a connection link connected to one of the links corresponding to the two respective coordinate points detected in step S2 has the natural link connection relationship with this one of the links corresponding to the two respective coordinate points (step S15). The determination as to the natural link connection relationship is made on the basis of the link data of the map data in the first to third levels described in the center map information database 16, the link connection relationship list indicating connection relationships among the links, and a natural link connection list indicating connection links having the natural link connection relationship. Referring to Fig. 15, an example is described below in which a connection link has the natural link connection relationship with one of the links of interest corresponding to the two respective points represented by the coordinates detected in step S2.
  • In the example shown in Fig. 15, coordinates M and N are acquired in step S1 as position coordinates indicating points passed through by the information probing vehicle 2, and, in step S2, a link 85 is detected as a link corresponding to the coordinates M and a link 86 is detected as a link corresponding to the coordinates N. In this specific example, there are three possible routes between the links 85 and 86, that is, a route provided by a combination of links 87 and 88, a route provided by a combination of links 89 and 90, and a route provided by a combination of links 87, 91, and 92, and thus it is impossible to uniquely identify traveled links.
  • However, the natural link connection list indicates that, of links directly connected to the link 85 of interest, the link 87 has the natural link connection relationship with the link 85. Thus, in addition to the links 85 and 86, the link 87 is identified as a link traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 between the coordinates M and N.
  • In the case in which it is determined that one or both of the links of interest corresponding to two coordinate points have a connection link having the natural link connection relationship, as in the example shown in Fig. 15 (that is, if the answer to step S15 is Yes), the connection link (the link 87 in the example shown in Fig. 15) is identified as a link traveled by the information probing vehicle 2, and the detected links of interest are complemented by the link identified as the traveled links (step S18). Thereafter, the processing flow proceeds to a determination process in step S22, which will be described later. Note that the process in step S15 corresponds to the process performed by the natural link connection checking means.
  • On the other hand, in the case in which it is determined that neither one of the links of interest corresponding to two coordinate points has a connection link having the natural link connection relationship (that is, if the answer to step S15 is No), the CPU 12 determines whether possible links between the two points represented by the position coordinates detected in step S2 include a link traveled in the past by the information probing vehicle 2 (step S16). The determination as to whether there is a link traveled in the past is made on the basis of the link data of the map data in the first to third levels described in the center map information database 16, the link connection relationship list indicating connection relationships among the links, and a travel history database 18. Referring to Fig. 15, an example is described below in which a link traveled in the past by the information probing vehicle 2 is found in possible links between the two points represented by position coordinates detected in step S2.
  • In the example shown in Fig. 15, it is assumed that, of possible links 87 to 92 between links 85 and 86, a link 88 is a link traveled in the past by the information probing vehicle 2. In this case, in addition to the links 85 and 86, the link 88 is identified as a link traveled this time by the information probing vehicle 2 between the two points represented by the coordinates M and N. Alternatively, in step S16, a determination may be made as to whether there is a link traveled in the past a plurality of times (for example, three or more times) by the information probing vehicle 2, and such a link may be identified as a link traveled this time.
  • When a link traveled in the past by the information probing vehicle 2 is found in links between the two points represented by position coordinates, as in the example shown in Fig. 15 (that is, if the answer to step S16 is Yes), the link identified as the link traveled in the past (the link 88 in the example shown in Fig. 15) is identified as a link traveled this time by the information probing vehicle 2, and the detected links of interest are complemented by the links identified as the traveled links (step S18). Thereafter, the processing flow proceeds to the determination process in step S22, which will be described later.
  • In the example shown in Fig. 15, as described above, the link 87 determined as having the natural link connection relationship has been employed as a complementary link, and the link 88 determined as a link traveled in the past by the information probing vehicle 2 has been employed as a complementary link. In this case, the links 87, 88 and 86 links are connected to each other (that is, the answer to step S12 is Yes), and thus in step S17, the combination of links 85, 87, 88, and 86 is uniquely identified as a route traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 between the coordinates M and N. Thus, the link completing process is successfully completed. Note that the process in step S16 corresponds to the process performed by the travel history checking means.
  • On the other hand, in the case in which no link traveled in the past by the information probing vehicle 2 is found in the links between the links corresponding to the two points represented by the coordinates (that is, if the answer to step S16 is No), the processing flow proceeds to step S19.
  • In step S19, the CPU 12 calculates the time spent by the information probing vehicle 2 to travel each link between the two points detected in step S2 (hereinafter, such a time will be referred to as a link-to-link travel time). Furthermore, using the calculated link-to-link travel times, the CPU 12 further calculates the time taken to travel a sequence of links therethrough connecting the links of interest corresponding to the two points represented by the coordinates (hereinafter, such a time will be referred to as a sequence-of-links travel time). Note that the process in step S19 corresponds to the process performed by the point-to-point travel time calculation means and the sequence-of-links travel time calculation means.
  • In step S20, the average sequence-of-links travel time indicating the average of times taken in the past to travel the sequence of links therethrough connecting the two points detected in step S2 on the basis of a statistical link database 17. More specifically, the average travel time for each link is calculated from data stored in the statistical link database 17 in terms of times taken in the past by the information probing vehicle 2 to travel each link, and the average sequence-of-links travel time is determined by calculating the sum of the average travel times of the respective links. Note that the process in step S20 corresponds to the process performed by the statistical sequence-of-links travel time acquisition means.
  • In step S21, the time spent this time to travel the sequence of links, calculated in step S19, is compared with the average sequence-of-links travel times calculated in step S20 to find a sequence of links with an average sequence-of-links travel time closest to the time spent this time to travel the sequence of links. If such a sequence of links is found, the found sequence of links is identified as traveled links.
  • Referring to Fig. 16, a specific example of the traveled link identification process in steps S19 to S21 is described below.
  • In the example shown in Fig. 16, coordinates O and P are acquired in step S1 as position coordinates indicating points passed through by the information probing vehicle 2, and, in step S2, a link 95 is detected as a link corresponding to the coordinates O and a link 100 is detected as a link corresponding to the coordinates P. In this specific example, there are two possible routes between the links 95 and 100, that is, a route provided by a combination of links 96 and 97, and a route provided by a combination of links 98 and 99, and thus it is impossible to uniquely identify traveled links.
  • In this specific example, the point indicated by the coordinates O was passed through at 12:10 by the information probing vehicle 2, and the point indicated by the coordinates P was passed through at 12:11 by the information probing vehicle 2. Thus, in step S19, the link-to-link travel time is calculated as 60 seconds. Furthermore, using the ratio of the length of a zone e from the coordinates O to a node 101 to the length of the link 95, and using the travel time for the link 95 read from the statistical link database 17, the travel time needed to travel the zone e is calculated (in the example shown in Fig. 16, the travel time is calculated as 7 seconds). Similarly, using the ratio of the length of a zone f from the coordinates P to a node 102 to the length of the link 100, and using the travel time for the link 100, the travel time needed to travel the zone f is calculated (in the example shown in Fig. 16, the travel time is calculated as 8 seconds). The sequence-of-links travel time is then calculated by extracting the travel times needed to travel the zones e and f from the link-to-link travel time (in the example shown in Fig. 16, the sequence-of-links travel time is calculated as 45 seconds).
  • The average travel time for each of links 96 to 99 can be calculated from data recorded in the statistical link database 17 in terms of travel times spent in the past to travel each link by the information probing vehicle 2. More specifically, in the example shown in Fig. 16, the average travel time for the link 96 is calculated as 30 seconds, the average travel time for the link 97 as 18 seconds, the average travel time for the link 98 as 25 seconds, and the average travel time for the link 99 as 40 seconds. Thus, for a sequence of links 96 and 97, which is one of sequences of links which are possible as routes between the coordinates O and P, the average travel time is calculated as 48 seconds. On the other hand, the average travel time for a sequence of links 98 and 99, which provides another possible route between the coordinates O and P, is calculated as 65 seconds.
  • In this specific example, the average travel time for the sequence of links 96 and 97 is closest to 45 seconds determined as the sequence-of-links travel time. Thus, in this case, the links 96 and 97 are identified as links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 between the coordinates O and P.
  • Thereafter, in step S22, the CPU 12 determines whether as a result of the completing process performed in step S18 or S21, a complete sequence of links has been obtained as a route between the two coordinate points detected in step S2. If it is determined that a complete sequence of links has been obtained via the completing process (that is, if the answer to step S22 is Yes), the process proceeds to step S4. In step S4, the travel time for each of links determined as the complementary links is calculated.
  • On the other hand, if it is determined that a complete sequence of links has not yet been obtained via the completing process (that is, if the answer to step S22 is No), the process returns to step S11 to repeat identifying of traveled links and completing of links. Note that the process in steps S17 to S22 corresponds to the process performed by the traveled link identifying means and the sequence-of-links identifying means.
  • Now, with reference to Fig. 17, a traffic information transmission program executed in the traveled link identifying system 1 by a navigation ECU 23 installed in the terminal vehicle 4 and the server 11 installed in the information probing center 3 is described below. Fig. 17 is a flow chart showing the traffic information transmission program executed in the traveled link identifying system according to an embodiment of the present invention. The traffic information transmission program is a program to transmit traffic information produced by the information probing center 3, in response to a request from the terminal vehicle 4. The program shown in the flow chart of Fig. 17 is stored in the RAM 42 or the ROM 43 disposed in the navigation apparatus 20 or in the RAM 13 or the ROM 14 disposed in the server 11, and is executed by the CPU 41 or the CPU 12.
  • First, the traffic information transmission program executed by the CPU 41 of the navigation apparatus 20 is described with reference to Fig. 17. In step S101, the CPU 41 sets a destination in accordance with an operation performed by a user on the operation unit 24.
  • Next, in step S102, the current position of the vehicle (the terminal vehicle 4) is detected using the current position detecting unit 21. Thereafter, in step S103, information associated with the destination set in step S101 (more specifically, an ID of a facility or the like specified as the destination, position coordinates of the destination, etc.) and information associated with the current vehicle position detected in step S102 (more specifically, position coordinates of the current vehicle position) are transmitted to the information probing center 3 via the terminal communication device 7.
  • In step S104, traffic information (including the link travel time calculated in step S4) transmitted from the information probing center 3 is received via the terminal communication device 7.
  • Next, in step S105, a route for the destination is searched for on the basis of the traffic information received in step S104.
  • The route searching process performed by the navigation ECU 23 is described in further detail below. First, road data of search data in the map data is examined and the search cost (the node cost and the link cost) is calculated for roads included in a mesh used in the searching, in accordance with the traffic information received in step S104. When a route found in searching started from the current vehicle position meets somewhere a route found in searching started from the destination, the sum of costs for the route from the current vehicle position and the sum of costs for the route from the destination are added together to determine the total cost. The total cost is calculated for each possible route, and a route having a minimum total cost is selected.
  • In step S106, the route selected in the searching process in step S105 is set as a navigation route. Thereafter, various kinds of drive guidance information is provided along the navigation route, using the liquid crystal display 25 and the speaker 26 (step S107).
  • Now, referring to Fig. 17, a travel prediction program executed by the CPU 12 of the server 11 is described below. First, in step 111, the CPU 12 receives information indicating the current position of the terminal vehicle 4 transmitted in step S103 from the terminal vehicle 4, and also receives information associated with the specified destination from the center communication device 6.
  • Next, in step S112, the CPU 12 produces traffic information in accordance with the current position of the terminal vehicle 4 and the specified destination indicated by the information received in step S111. More specifically, traffic information (indicating, for example, congestion, average vehicle speeds, etc.) associated with areas to be searched to find an optimum route from the current position of the terminal vehicle 4 to the destination is produced from the probed information database 15. The travel time for each link in the related areas is also extracted from the link travel times determined in step S4.
  • Next, in step S113, the traffic information produced or extracted in step S112 is transmitted to the terminal vehicle 4 from the center communication device 6.
  • In the traveled link identifying system 1 according to the present embodiment of the invention, as described in detail above, two points passed through by the information probing vehicle 2 are detected from position coordinate information included in the probed information transmitted from the information probing vehicle 2, and links corresponding to these two points are determined (step S2). If a combination of links is uniquely identified as a route between the links corresponding to the two respective points (that is, if the answer to step S13 is Yes), the links of this combination are identified as links traveled by the vehicle (step S18). Thus, it is possible to correctly identify links traveled by the vehicle on the basis of acquired information indicating the vehicle position taking into account connection relationships among links, and it is possible to correctly determine traffic congestion, travel times, and other traffic parameters on the basis of the identified links.
  • On the other hand, in the case in which it is determined that a detected link of interest and a connection links directly connected to the detected link of interest both belong to the same single link defined in the upper-level map data (that is, if the answer to step S14 is Yes), the connection link is identified as a link traveled by the vehicle (step S18). That is, links traveled by the vehicle are correctly identified on the basis of acquired information indicating the vehicle position taking into account link definition in different levels.
  • On the other hand, in the case in which it is determined that a connection link directly connected to a detected link of interest has the natural link connection relationship with the link of interest, (that is, if the answer to step S15 is Yes), this connection link is identified as a link traveled by the vehicle (step S18). Thus, it is possible to correctly identify links traveled by the vehicle on the basis of acquired information indicating the vehicle position taking into account the relationship among links.
  • When a link traveled in the past by the information probing vehicle 2 is found in links existing between the detected links of interest, (that is, if the answer to step S16 is Yes), the found link is identified as a link traveled this time by the information probing vehicle 2 (step S18). Thus, it is possible to correctly identify links traveled by the vehicle on the basis of acquired information indicating the vehicle position taking into account the travel history.
  • When a sequence of links is detected which has an average travel time closest to a time spent this time by the information probing vehicle 2 between the detected two points, the detected sequence of links is identified as a sequence of links traveled this time by the information probing vehicle 2 (step S21). Thus, it is possible to correctly identify links traveled by the vehicle on the basis of acquired information indicating the vehicle position taking into account the link travel time.
  • The travel time for each link is calculated on the basis of the identified link or the identified sequence of links (step S4), and thus it is possible to accurately calculate the travel time of each traveled link on the basis of the information transmitted from the information probing center 3 or from the actually running information probing vehicle 2.
  • Note that although the present invention has been described above with reference to specific embodiments, the present invention is not limited to those specific embodiments described above, but various improvements or modifications are possible without departing from the scope of the present invention.
  • For example, in the embodiments described above, coordinates of two points passed through the information probing vehicle 2 are detected (step S2), and links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 between the two points are identified. Alternatively, coordinates of three or more points passed through by the information probing vehicle 2 may be detected, and links traveled by the information probing vehicle 2 among these points may be identified.
  • After coordinates of two points passed through by the information probing vehicle 2 are detected (step S2), the two points may be respectively set as a starting point and a destination, and a route may be searched for between these two points. If a route is found as a result of the searching, the found route may be identified as a route traveled by the information probing vehicle 2.
  • In the embodiments described above, the current position of the information probing vehicle 2 and the current time are transmitted from the information probing vehicle 2 to the information probing center 3 at predetermined time intervals (for example, every minute). Alternatively, the above information may be transmitted at predetermined distance intervals (for example, every 100 m) or the information may be transmitted each time a node is passed through.
  • It is explicitly stated that all features disclosed in the description and/or the claims are intended to be disclosed separately and independently from each other for the purpose of original disclosure as well as for the purpose of restricting the claimed invention independent of the composition of the features in the embodiments and/or the claims. It is explicitly stated that all value ranges or indications of groups of entities disclose every possible intermediate value or intermediate entity for the purpose of original disclosure as well as for the purpose of restricting the claimed invention, in particular as limits of value ranges.

Claims (4)

  1. A traveled link identifying system (1) comprising:
    information acquisition means (6) for acquiring position information associated with a current position of a vehicle at predetermined distance intervals or at predetermined time intervals;
    position-based link detection means (11) for detecting links traveled by the vehicle, on the basis of the position information acquired by the information acquisition means;
    connection relationship storage means (16) for storing connection relationship for each link;
    combination checking means (11) for determining, on the basis of the connection relationship stored in the connection relationship storage means, whether it is possible to uniquely identify one combination of links connecting the links detected by the position-based link detection means; and
    traveled link identifying means (11) for identifying traveled links such that if the combination checking means determines that it is possible to uniquely identify one combination of links, the identified combination of links is identified as links traveled by the vehicle.
  2. A traveled link identifying system (1) comprising:
    information acquisition means (6) for acquiring position information associated with a current position of a vehicle at predetermined distance intervals or at predetermined time intervals;
    map data storage means (16) for storing map data in a plurality of hierarchical levels according to the amount of information of road networks;
    position-based link detection means (11) for detecting links traveled by the vehicle from map data in a particular level stored in the map data storage means on the basis of the position information acquired by the information acquisition means;
    connection relationship storage means (16) for storing, for each link, connection relationship in the map data in the plurality of levels;
    link checking means (11) for determining, on the basis of the connection relationship stored in the connection relationship storage means, whether a connection link connected to one of the links detected by the position-based link detection means and this one of the links detected by the position-based link detection means belong to a same single link in map data in an upper level in which the amount of information is lower than the amount of information in the particular level; and
    traveled link identifying means (11) for identifying traveled links such that if the link checking means (11) determines that the connection link and the one of the detected link belong to the same single link in the upper-level map data, this connection link is identified as a link traveled by the vehicle.
  3. A traveled link identifying system according to Claims 1 or 2, further comprising travel time calculation means (11) for calculating the travel time for the link traveled by the vehicle on the basis of the traveled link identified by the traveled link identifying means and on the basis of the time needed for the vehicle to travel the identified link.
  4. A traveled link identifying system according to Claim 3, further comprising travel time calculation means (11) for calculating the travel time for each link included in the sequence of links traveled by the vehicle on the basis of the sequence of traveled links identified by the traveled sequence-of-links identifying means and on the basis of the time calculated by the sequence-of-links travel time calculation means.
EP20060026638 2005-12-26 2006-12-21 A travel link identification system Active EP1804223B1 (en)

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EP2120226A3 (en) 2009-12-30
US7788029B2 (en) 2010-08-31
DE602006010967D1 (en) 2010-01-21
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CN1991310B (en) 2012-10-10
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